Jackson, Wyo., is fiercely proud of its western heritage and it shows. This town of 15,000 people, about 90 minutes south of Yellowstone, draws around three million tourists every summer who are lured by its frontier character. Covered wooden sidewalks and two-storey wooden buildings make up the downtown core of shops and restaurants. It looks as it must have done in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, when cattle ranchers and trappers made this their main drag. In the midst of all this cowboy – historic western bars, head-to-toe denim and dirty, dusty cowboy boots – the sleek boutique Hotel Jackson has opened. You could say it stands out like a weasel in a henhouse. Or you could say it’s a breath of fresh air.
You’re in the heart of downtown: right next to the log-cabin church and steps from the town square with its awe-inspiring antler arches. All the town’s sights are an easy walk, from the infamous (saddle seating at the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar) to the delicious (Persephone Bakery could make its home in any big city full of foodies) to the unique (Jackson’s own Stio makes outdoor wear that’s as warm and good-looking as any big-name brand). If you’re here in ski season, Snow King Resort is five minutes away, and the legendary Jackson Hole Mountain Resort is a 20-minute drive; the hotel has complimentary shuttles to both. Best of all, you’re just two doors down from the Silver Dollar Bar at the Wort Hotel. Head over any night when there’s live music to see locals tearing up the dance floor in a country-and-western triple two-step.
Call it western chic. Instead of bison, elk and moose heads on the wall, here antlers are used as statement pieces or centrepieces. And here the wood isn’t shellacked and shiny, but muted and grey, as reclaimed barn wood lines the corridors and lobby. The furniture is modern and comfortable, and the library lounge is full of real books on the area and is a showplace for sculptures and art from a local gallery.
Eat in or eat out?
In and out. Figs, the lobby restaurant, is a surprise of Middle Eastern delights. Who expects to find several types of hummus and warm, fragrant pita bread in Wyoming? But when you find out that Hotel Jackson is run by the Darwiche family, whose elder statesman arrived in the United States from Lebanon as a teenager, it makes sense. The menu is inspired by the Middle East, and although you can get bison here, too, it may come with a side of tabbouleh and Lebanese lemonade.
Eating out? Take the hotel car or taxi to Rendezvous Bistro – a delightfully casual and elegant French-American bistro in the south end of town. Beef tartare, for example, is served “Carter country style,” with potato chips, a yard egg and capers. And the fingerling potatoes are fried in duck fat, ooh la la. You’ll find the linen tablecloths covered in paper with crayon baskets among the tableware. That may sound a little Chuck E. Cheese, but it’s not. It’s welcoming and unpretentious, like the rest of the town.
The underground parking garage is a serious plus (it’s the only one in town). But I’d have to go with the outdoor rooftop hot tub. Though the rooftop is only three storeys high, in this town, nothing obscures your view of the nearby buttes. It’s even better at night, when you can look up at the stars and watch car headlights carve lazy arcs up the mountain on switchback roads.
If I could change one thing
That said, it would be so much better if the hot tub hours didn’t end at 7 p.m.
Whom you'll meet
If there is such a thing as western hipsters, Hotel Jackson is urban enough in look and feel to draw them in. But I never saw any. Instead, you’ll find a lot of townsfolk trying out Figs, and visitors like yourself, who appreciate a little design savvy where they lay their heads.
Hotel Jackson, 120 N Glenwood St., Jackson, Wyo., hoteljackson.com; 58 rooms from $250 (U.S.).
The writer was a guest of the hotel.
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